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The Migration of People around the World

Updated on June 17, 2015

Migration has been an issue centuries ago, since the Roman times, there have been small movements of migration, some of them not very clear due to the nonexistence of borders, but Rome itself is an example of a city growing due to the migration inflow to the city during the golden years.

Worldwide notorious migration probably started with the evolution of the water transportation, during the Discoveries, the European countries started to colonize territories in Africa and America, starting the migrations from Europe to America and Africa.

At the same time, during the Discoveries, most European powers started a forced migration of slaves from Africa to America.

With the technological advances and the evolution of the transportation around the world, the migration from countries is becoming easier. Nowadays the main obstacle against migration are the countries policies, otherwise if you can easily go to another country and make a living there, depending on the country, it can still be hard to survive in some parts of the world.

The Top 10 Migration Destinations
The Top 10 Migration Destinations

The Top 10 Destinations

Currently the top 10 destinations of the emigrants are:

  • USA
  • Russia
  • Germany
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Spain
  • France
  • Australia
  • India

Under this ranking you can see a specific analysis on each country.


Land of opportunities and the biggest economy in the world. These were the two main advantages that the US.

It is also a country of immigrants since the beginning, since it was created by immigrants.

The most important community are the Mexicans, with a community estimated with over twelve million people, 25% of the total immigrants in the US.

Other communities in the US with over 1 million migrants are:

  • China
  • Philippines
  • India
  • Puerto Rico
  • Vietnam
  • El Salvador
  • South Korea
  • Cuba


The former Soviet Union aggregate a number of countries, that after the dissolution were all smaller than Russia, the biggest country and the country that ruled the Soviet Union.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, many of the people from the Soviet republics emigrated to Russia, since it had a greater economic power and opportunity to low qualified jobs and also high qualified jobs, since the Soviets had a focus on education of its people.

Russia (1) and the Ex-Soviet Republics
Russia (1) and the Ex-Soviet Republics


It is nowadays the economic powerhouse of Europe, but before the reunite of West Germany and East Germany, West Germany was a fast growing economy that needed cheap workers. With a strong economy, good wages and central location it gathered immigrants from several countries.

Main Immigrant communities

Country of Origin
Number of immigrants
% of Population
King Abdullah Financial Distrcit
King Abdullah Financial Distrcit

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia may be rich and famous due to its Princes, location and Oil, and it is also a country with almost 30% of its population composed by immigrants. The country's richness is oil, accounting for more than 95% of its exports, which gives a country a bunch of dollars to spend on modernization and welfare. Attracted by the richness and since Saudi Arabia needs workers to the modernization works, there is a great inflow of people to the country, most of them from India, Pakistan and Egypt, most of them on lower jobs that the Arabs do not want.


Canada may be big in size, but it is rather small in population, specially when comparing to the only neighbor, the US. Canada has a population of around 30 million, 10% of the US, but more than 7 million are immigrants, making more than 20% of the Canada population.

Canada welcomes the immigrants and it offers good opportunities with good wages for educated workers, being a top destination for educated immigrants.

That is why the top community in Canada is from the United Kingdom with almost 700.000 people. Curiously the US immigrants are the sixth largest with almost 300.000 people, even being the only neighbor of Canada.

United Kingdom

The UK, as the US, is also a land of opportunities, but in Europe, and that is why more than 10% of its population is composed by immigrants, which concentrate in the bigger cities, for example in London, 35% of the people living in London were born outside the UK.

The main communities (with over 200k) are:

  • India, due to the historical relations and better living in the UK.
  • Poland, higher wages in the UK attracted many Eastern European.
  • Pakistan, same as India.
  • Ireland, proximity
  • Germany, probably most are educated workers looking for better opportunities.
  • South Africa, same as India
  • Bangladesh, same as India


Spain had a great boom of immigrants during the golden years of the construction industry. Nowadays some of them are leaving, others stay since their home countries are economically worse.

The Top 5 is made by:

  • Romania with 800k, since Romania is part of the European Union, many Romanian went to other countries to find a better way to live.
  • Morocco with 800k, it is one of the Spain neighbors and Spain offers much better working conditions than in Morocco.
  • Ecuador, former Spanish colony that was also in a poor economic condition some years ago.
  • United Kingdom, a mix of worker immigrants and retired immigrants searching for a sunny retirement.
  • Colombia, same as Equador.


France, as Spain, UK and Germany is also one of the big countries in Europe that offers great opportunities for immigrants, and that is why the top 10 communities in France are northern African countries and countries from the European Union (some immigrant communities went to France before the union).

The Top 5 is made by

  • Algeria and Morocco, countries with a historical relation with France, Algeria is a former colony.
  • Portugal, Spain and Italy complete the top 5, mainly due to the better work conditions and better wages that the southern europeans found in France, with a similar language to their home country.

The other five to complete the Top10 are Tunisia (North Africa), Turkey(Asia/Europe), UK, Germany and Belgium (neighbors).


The far away country has a similar population to Canada, with only 25 million people, with 5 million immigrants, most of them from the United Kingdom.

The former UK colony is a good destination for people looking for better opportunities and new chances. At least more than a million people migrated from the UK to the lands of Australia.

Completing the Top 5 are New Zealand (neighbor country), China, Italy and India.


India may be a poor country when compared to the other countries in this Top10, but it is also located in a populated area of the globe with poorer countries around, and that is how India appears as the 10th destination of immigrants, with more 3 million people that migrated from Bangladesh (lately famous due to the poor working conditions and burned factories) to India.

Pakistas, Nepal and Sri Lanka complete the Top4 countries that contribute to the 5 million immigrants in India (3,3m from Bangladesh, 1,1m from Pakistan and the rest from Nepal & Sri Lanka). The fifth contributor is Myanmar with only an estimated 25.000 people.

The Top 10 countries of Emigrants

  • Mexico
  • India
  • Russia
  • China
  • Ukraine
  • Bangladesh
  • Pakistan
  • United Kingdom
  • Philippines
  • Turkey

The US-Mexico border
The US-Mexico border


More than 95% of the Mexican emigrants go to one country, the US. This is explained by the better opportunities that they will find there and by the easiness of how they can go from one country to the other.

Mexican emigrants have only two options to migrate by land, the poorer south (Central America countries) or the rich north (the US), and with a wide border difficult to protect the US ends receiving lots of illegal immigrants. Since there are already lots of Mexicans in the US, it is also easier for the new emigrants that cannot speak English, but can speak Spanish with the already established Mexicans in the US.

It is estimated that 10% of the Mexicans have emigrated to the US, making a total of more than 11 million people.


Indian emigrants have several destinations, with the latest growing destination being the United Arab Emirates, explained by the need of workers by the UAE and the excess of workers that India has, looking for better life conditions and wanting to offer a better life to their family.

UAE is currently the main destination of India's emigrants with more than two million people, with Saudi Arabia also housing almost a 1.5 million Indian emigrants.

The US is the other country completing the Top3 of the Indian emigrant, with over 1.5 million.


Russia is a country of migrations, being the third country originating emigrants and the second hosting immigrants.

This is explained by end of the Soviet Union and the new countries that appeared. That is why the top destinations for many Russians are the former Soviet countries, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, that are home to more than five million immigrants, specially Ukraine with over 3.5 million.

Curiously the third place is occupied by Israel. This is explained the the open borders declared after the end of the Soviet Union, when almost a million Jews emigrated from Russia to Israel.


China is the biggest country in the world by population, but due to the strict restrictions in the emigrating policy it can only be in these top due to the great number of people that emigrated from China to ... China, assuming Hong Kong as part of China.

The US comes in second when counting Chinese emigrants, with almost two million immigrants. Most of them are looking for better life conditions in the land of opportunities with the help of the already well established Chinese community in the big cities.

Japan, Canada and Singapore complete the top 5 of the Chinese destinations.

Ukraine and Neighbors
Ukraine and Neighbors


Ukraine has a shared past with Russia and it is one of the poorest countries in Europe, that explains why more than 3 million people migrated from Ukraine to Russia. This migration is also explained by history, since Ukraine only became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The other destinations that complete the Top5 are:

  • Poland (neighbor country and part of the European Union nowadays)
  • USA (following the dream)
  • Kazakhstan (former part of the Soviet Union)
  • Israel (see "More about Russians in Israel")

From 2014 onwards it has struggled with Russia about Crimea.


Bangladesh in one of the poorer countries in the world and it is surrounded by one country, India. That is why over 50% of the Bangladeshi emigrants went to India, to search for a better life.

As in India, many Bangladeshi also migrated to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to work in manual labors with the hope to improve their life in the future.

Around 200,000 people migrated to the UK, which can be explained since Bangladesh was a former British colony.


Pakistan is another former British colony in a dense populated region of the world that stays in a poor economic condition.

The top 5 destinations for Pakistani emigrants are:

  • India, the neighbor country.
  • Saudi Arabia, same as India and Bangladesh, most of them work in manual labors.
  • United Arab Emirates, same as India and Bangladesh, most of them work in construction sites.
  • United Kingdom, land of opportunity for the English speaking migrants.
  • United States, same as the UK.

United Kingdom

Even though it is one of the top destinations for many migrants around the world, it is also the origin for others. The main destinations for the UK emigrants are former colonies, probably because it is easier to migrate to a country with the same language.

The top destination is the far away country, Australia, with over a million migrants. Completing the Top3 are the US and Canada with around 700.000 each.


Philippines has close relations with the US and that explains how more than 1.5 million people migrated from the Philippines to the US.

The Top 5 destinations of emigrants are completed by:

  • Saudi Arabia, working at several types of jobs
  • Canada, better life conditions and near the US;
  • Malaysia, one of the nearest countries;
  • Japan, also a near country.


Turkey appears in the Top 10 because of the mass migration between Germany and Turkey. More than 50% of the Turkish migrants are in Germany, the main destination housing more than 2,5 million Turkish.

The second destination was France with only 300.000 migrants and then the Netherlands with 200.000. This shows the importance of the permits that Germany has given to Turkey after the economic boom in the sixties.

Green - Main Destinations;  Red - Main Origins;  Blue - Both Emigrants and Immigrants.
Green - Main Destinations; Red - Main Origins; Blue - Both Emigrants and Immigrants.
# (est.)
Hong Kong
United Arab Emirates

The top 10 migration corridors.

  • Mexico to USA

Due to the geographical location and to the difference in wages, everyday there are people trying to reach the USA from Mexico by land. With a total population of almost 120 million, and a economy based on low wages, the Mexican people search for opportunities near, and what's best than the land of opportunities, the USA.

It is estimated that 10% of the Mexicants emigrated to the USA, making the larger contingent of emigrants in the US, accounting for 25% of the total emigrants in the US and 3,75% of the total population of the US.

  • Russia to Ukraine

The number of Russians in Ukraine is not very exact since it was only 22 years ago that Ukraine become independent, and by that time the number of "Russians", some born in Ukraine, was around eleven million.

Most Russians emigrate to the Ukrainian cities where some have lived with good jobs, since they are educated workers.

  • Ukraine to Russia

This type of migration is caused by the simple and main reason of migration, Russia has better economic opportunities than Ukraine, and most Ukrainian can speak Russian. Some Ukrainians have migrated to rural areas making their new life there, some of them marrying to Russians.

  • Bangladesh to India

Bangladesh, the 8th country in terms of population has a GDP per capita a bit more than half of its neighbor, India. Even having a good growth rates in the latest years, many poor people still prefer to try their luck in India, some of them illegally.

Another reason for this corridor is the India support to the Bangladesh independence in 1971 liberation war, making many of the Bangladesh people seek for a better home in India.

  • Turkey to Germany

The main reason for this corridor was the agreement between West Germany and Turkey, West Germany needed workers, Turkey had too much workers and high unemployment rate, so in 1961 an agreement was reached after some hard negotiations.

In the seventys, some Turks returned to Turkey, but others decided to reunite their family, which caused a normalization in the sex ratio, since the first migrations were almost all men.

  • Kazakhstan to Russia

Many Kazakhs that are living in Russia do not necessarily moved to Russia, they just stayed living in the Russian regions bordering Kazakhstan, but due to the change in the Russian frontiers in 1991, some Kazaks ended outside their country.

  • Russia to Kazakhstan

The main migration period started during the second world war and continued during the fifties and sixties when the Soviet regime allocated people to the Kazakhstan region to help the industry near the coal, gas and oil deposits. It is estimated that many Russian in Kazakhstan went there before the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, since then the migration is more difficult.

  • China to Hong Kong

Most of the Chinese in Hong Kong are from the neighbor region, Guangzhou, and they have been arriving in Hong Kong since the forties. Most of them want to go to HK since its government is different from the mainland China, making the dreams of the immigrants closer.

  • India to United Arab Emirates

UAE faces the same problem of the sixties Germany, lack of workers, in order to mantain a good economic growth and construct infrastructures and buildings, it was needed to recruit cheap labor force, India was the solution, along with other Asian countries.

  • China to USA

As many people from other countries, the US are still a great destinations for fulfilling the American dream and China is one of the largest countries in population. The historical relations between the Chinese and the west states also help to maintain the immigration rates from China to the US.

More about the number of migrants in some countries


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    • raymondphilippe profile image

      Raymond Philippe 4 years ago from The Netherlands

      Good job. I guess that moving around has always been part of human nature.

    • saitam profile image

      saitam 4 years ago from Lisbon

      Thank you. I am glad you liked it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nice job of research and writing. I always find this stuff fascinating. Well done.


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